New Tools for the Analysis of Political Power in Africa

Ilia Rainer, Francesco Trebbi

Chapter in NBER book African Successes, Volume I: Government and Institutions (2016), Sebastian Edwards, Simon Johnson, and David N. Weil, editors (p. 145 - 212)
Published in September 2016 by University of Chicago Press
© 2016 by the National Bureau of Economic Research
in Research on Africa

The study of autocracies and weakly institutionalized countries is plagued by scarcity of information about the relative strength of different players within the political system. This paper presents novel data on the composition of government coalitions in a sample of fifteen post-colonial African countries suited to this task. We emphasize the role of the executive branch as the central fulcrum of all national political systems in our sample, especially relative to other institutional bodies such as the legislative assembly. Leveraging on the impressive body of work documenting the crucial role of ethnic fragmentation as a main driver of political and social friction in Africa, the paper further details the construction of ethnic composition measures for executive cabinets. We discuss how this novel source of information may help shed light on the inner workings of typically opaque African political elites.

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w18424, New Tools for the Analysis of Political Power in Africa, Ilia Rainer, Francesco Trebbi
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